Red or white, cooking with wine up-levels your kitchen game!
No matter where you fall on the chef scale, learning how to cook with wine improves the flavors of so many recipes. It’s easy to be a kitchen cook, but it’s important to know which type of red or white wine will work best to create a deliciously memorable recipe.
What Does Wine Do For a Recipe?
Wine always improves the depth of flavor to any recipe, especially recipes that call for deglazing, steaming, braising, simmering, blending, and creating sauces. Almost always, the alcohol cooks out and the rich components of tangy notes and tannins enhance the flavor of a dish. As Julia Child once said, “I enjoy cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food!” But what kind of wine should be used? Read on to find out!
For the Best Flavor
Red or White, we suggest you only buy a wine you’d like to drink too. As a general rule, if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t use it in a recipe.
Skip the ‘cooking wines’, they really don’t have great flavor.
Best White Wines for Cooking
Our favorite white wines for cooking are crisp whites like Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc. Unoaked Chardonnay can also work.
- White wine is preferred for lighter fare such as poultry, pork, seafood, and shrimp.
- Chicken Marsala when made with white Marsala wine is a classic example.
- Marinate, sauté, deglaze, or create a delicious sauce with white wine. Any dry sherry splashed at the end of a cream-based pasta dish like linguine carbonara, seared scallops in lemon wine sauce, even braised chicken thighs with mushrooms will add a rich layer of flavor to a dish.
- Sparkling white wines will bring up the flavors of desserts like zabaglione or crème Brulee, and can also be added to fruit-based sorbets.
- Avoid cooking with a dessert wine like Moscato, Sauterne, and Riesling because of their high sugar content which makes them syrupy when reduced. Save those blends for dessert!
Best Red Wines for Cooking
Unlike white, red wine requires a little more finesse when cooking due to its high tannin level. As red wine reduces, the tannins will intensify and can make food taste bitter, so measure carefully.
- Heavier tannin-laden wine like Cabernet, Chianti, Pinot Noir, and Merlot can be used to braise fatty meats like short ribs or roast lamb because the fat content will offset the bitter tannin flavor.
- Red wines are commonly used in hearty dishes like beef bourguignon, and coq au vin, (just to confuse the poultry rule!) or homemade bolognese. Red wine is delicious cooked into ordinary spaghetti sauce or added to beef stew and of course in a great bolognese!
How to Store Wine
Many professional chefs swear by opening up new bottles of wine for every cooking session because once the air reaches the wine, it already begins aging, and the new flavor changes the outcome of the recipe.
PRO TIP: Wine can be frozen in ice cube trays and then popped out for a quick sauce or soup base. Keep the frozen cubes in a zippered bag with the date written on the outside and they’ll keep up to 3 months.